The Elbe Sandstone Mountains (also called Saxon Switzerland) are one of Germany’s most beautiful regions, located just a few miles from Dresden. They were named by two Swiss painters who were impressed by the similarity of the area to their own country’s landscapes. You will see bizarre rock formations, walk through ancient woods and picturesque valleys alongside the winding Elbe River. In the Romantic Era, many painters from Switzerland and England discovered this region with its beautiful wilderness.
The two Swiss painters Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, both of them teachers at the Dresden Academy of Arts, were among the first to discover the unique beauty of the stones, valleys and gorges in 1766. Together with their students, they spent a lot of time in this area. Soon many other artists followed their steps. The most famous painter from this group of nature-loving artists was the German Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840) with his masterpieces ‘View of the Elbe Valley’, ‘Rocky Gorge’ and ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’.
In 2006 the 115-kilometre long Painter’s Path (‘Malerweg’) was inaugurated, leading you in the footsteps of these romantic painters.
This moderate-grade short walking break covers the southern half of the Malerweg Trail following the left bank of the Elbe from Krippen (Bad Schandau) to Pirna.
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Day 1: Arrival Bad Schandau/Krippen
Welcome to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains! You travel individually to Dresden, and from there you will easily reach by train Krippen, a spa resort and a district of Bad Schandau; the perfect starting destination for all hiking tours along the Malerweg trail on the left side of the Elbe River. If you arrive early, you can do a short hike on the Caspar David Friedrich Trail or take the ferry (extra costs) to Bad Schandau for some sightseeing or relaxing in the local Toscana thermal bath.
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Krippen (Hotel Erbgericht Krippen or similar)
Day 2: Neumannmühle – Schmilka/Reinhardtsdorf | 14-22 km
You start the day by taking the bus to Neumannmühle to start the walking tour along the Malerweg Trail. Explore the region called “Hintere Sächsische Schweiz” with Zeughaus and Goldstein viewpoints, before climbing up to Großer Winterberg, with 556 metres the second highest mountain in Saxon Switzerland. On the descent, to Schmilka, we recommend a short detour to the Kipphorn viewpoint. After crossing the Elbe River by ferry in Schmilka (additional costs), you walk up steps to Schöna and soon reach your today’s destination.
- Walking for the day: 22 km, 7-8 hours ↑700 m ↓800 m (14 km, 6 hours if overnight in Schmilka)
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Schmilka or Reinhardtsdorf (Panorama Hotel Wolfsberg or similar)
Day 3: Schmilka/Reinhardtsdorf – Gohrisch | 9-17 km
Today you can enjoy the view of the Schrammstein massif from the other side of the Elbe River. Before you will reach the spa town Gohrisch, you will cross the two table mountains of Papststein and Gohrisch and enjoy the views of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains from their peaks.
- Walking for the day: 9 km, 3-4 hours ↑750 m ↓550 m (17 km, 6-7 hours if previous overnight in Schmilka)
- Accommodation: hotel or guesthouse in Gohrisch or Papstdorf (Hotel Erblehngericht or similar)
Day 4: Gohrisch – Königstein/Weißig | 9-16 km
The Malerweg trail will take you first to the Pfaffenstein massif. You will reach the top via the narrow Nadelöhr, a steep ascent featuring steel staircases and ladders and an imposing view over to Lilienstein and Königstein fortress will await you. After catching a glimpse of the impressive fortress from the distance, the Malerweg trail now leads you through the town of Königstein and to the fortress. Overnight in Königstein or Weissig, 7 km further.
Day 5: Königstein/Weißig – Pirna | 13-20 km
Passing Thürmsdorf and Weissig, the last hiking stage on the Malerweg trail leads you to the Rauenstein massif. From the top you can catch sight of the Bastei Bridge on the other side of the Elbe River. The descent along the ridge will lead you to Pötzscha. Via Naundorf and Obervogelgesang, you will reach the end point of your walking tour – Pirna.
- Walking for the day: 13 km, 5 hours ↑300 m ↓400 m (20 km, 7-8 hours if previous overnight in Königstein)
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Pirna (Hotel Am Malerweg or similar)
Day 6: Departure or Onward Travel
The tour ends after breakfast. Departure or extend your stay with more days in Pirna.
What to Expect
5 nights in 3-star hotels or comfortable guesthouses. All rooms have en-suite facilities. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
Click to view default hotels
- Hotel Erbgericht Krippen
- Panorama Hotel Wolfsberg
- Hotel Erblehngericht
- Hotel Lindenhof
- Hotel Am Malerweg
*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or restaurants in the village near your hotel.
Difficulty & terrain
This holiday is appropriate for walkers with a good level of fitness and no fear of heights, total walking is 60 km, on average 5-6 hours per walking day (read more about difficulty grades). The trails are very well maintained and waymarked. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from April until October, except between 18-21 June. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking. The climate in the region is continental, cold and temperate. Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary, but, in the June-September period, the daily averages are 15 – 25°C. Spring and autumn are cooler with occasional rain. Expect the weather to change rapidly during the day.
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Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Dresden.
By train or bus
You will arrive at Dresden airport. Take the modern airport shuttle train. The platform is situated in the basement of the terminal (signs will indicate the direction). The journey to Krippen takes 47 minutes.
- Detailed road notes and maps (1 pack per room)
- 5 nights in 3-star hotels or guesthouses
- 5 breakfasts
- Welcome surprise
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days
- Train ticket for the 2nd hiking day
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Other public transport
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras & supplements
- Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Hiking with a dog is possible on request. Any additional costs are payable on the spot only
- Extra nights in Pirna and Dresden